This is my favorite kind of book, combining observations of the natural world with thoughts on many varied topics, in a poetic but economical prose style. A naturalist and amateur musician, this author was familiar with the legend that Mozart bought a starling after walking past a shop window and hearing the bird whistle a melody he had composed but never yet performed in public. Wanting to understand how the composer had come to own, and evidently treasure, a member of a species that is reviled as a pest by many ornithologists, she captures a 5 day-old starling fledgling and raises it in her home, eventually traveling to Vienna to learn more about Mozart's home life. She weaves the bird's charming quirks into a narrative that ranges from musical history, science, and her family life, to compelling arguments for the importance of increasing everyone’s relationship with all living things in today’s climate-changing, screen-obsessed world. — From Georgeann's Picks
Two centuries later, starlings are reviled by even the most compassionate conservationists. A nonnative, invasive species, they invade sensitive habitats, outcompete local birds for nest sites and food, and decimate crops. A seasoned birder and naturalist, Lyanda Lynn Haupt is well versed in the difficult and often strained relationships these birds have with other species and the environment. But after rescuing a baby starling of her own, Haupt found herself enchanted by the same intelligence and playful spirit that had so charmed her favorite composer.
In Mozart's Starling, Haupt explores the unlikely and remarkable bond between one of history's most cherished composers and one of earth's most common birds. The intertwined stories of Mozart's beloved pet and Haupt's own starling provide an unexpected window into human-animal friendships, music, the secret world of starlings, and the nature of creative inspiration. A blend of natural history, biography, and memoir, Mozart's Starling is a tour de force that awakens a surprising new awareness of our place in the world.
About the Author
Her writing has appeared in Image, Open Spaces, Wild Earth, Conservation Biology Journal, Birdwatcher's Digest, and the Prairie Naturalist. She lives in West Seattle with her husband and daughter.
"Mozart's Starling is a delightful, enlightening, breathless flight through the worlds of Carmen and Star, two European starlings who join their human counterparts in exploring life and music and nature, helping to shed light on the connection between humans and birds -- those of us bound to terra firma, and those who are free to soar."—Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain and A Sudden Light
"Mozart's Starling sparkles with imagination, emotion, and insight. Common birds, who too many consider vermin, have great gifts to share. Thank you, Lyanda Lynn Haupt, for showing us the delight and magic of a starling."—Sy Montgomery, author of Birdology and The Soul of an Octopus
"A brave thing it is to write a love-song to starlings, in a conservation culture inclined not only to struggle with exotic species, but to demonize them. But Lyanda Haupt has done just that--not as apologist for wildlings in North America, but as celebrant of an utterly extraordinary, beautiful, and deeply engaging animal in and of itself. In prose as lovely as birdsong and as clear and sharp as the cool air itself, she has given starlings--hers, Mozart's, the whole species--the kind of loving and rigorous Life that every kind of creature deserves but very few get. I thought of Gerald Durrell, Konrad Lorenz, and Jane Goodall, none of whom I loved reading more. The story of Carmen, Star, and their humans is as riveting as a good novel, and I learned as much about Mozart as about birdsong and birdbrains. I enjoyed Mozart's Starling immensely, and I challenge anyone to read it and still treat starlings inhumanely. Lucky is the bird that finds its Papagena."—Robert Michael Pyle, author of Through a Green Lens and Mariposa Road
"By raising up her own pet starling, Lyanda Lynn Haupt reveals something that music historians have missed -- how daily life with a bird impacted Mozart during his most productive period. By sharing this delightful tale with the rest of us, she also reveals the unexpected quirks and charms of a species too often dismissed as a pest. Mozart's Starling is pure pleasure."—Thor Hanson, author of The Triumph of Seeds
"I've long been a fan of Lyanda Lynn Haupt's writing but in Mozart's Starling she wings it to another level. From the few but beguiling wisps that have come down about the pet starling that Mozart harbored for a couple of years, Haupt soars through a wide-ranging meditation on music, mimicry, language, Viennese manners and mores, avian behavior, perception of time and space, and the skein of spirit that connects humans to the creatures around them, including the much reviled starling. The rescue and rearing of her own pet starling, Carmen, by turns harrowing and hilarious, is a deeply satisfying emotional counterpoint. I came away utterly convinced that Mozart was himself starling-like in his mischievous, quicksilver, sometimes raunchy, sometimes celestial genius. This volume sent me outside with a song in my heart and a glint in my eye as I surveyed the sky for the magic Haupt conjures up on every page."—David Laskin, author of The Children's Blizzard and The Family
Praise for Crow Planet
"A completely charming and informative book on the pleasures of keeping one's eyes open."—David Sedaris
Praise for The Urban Bestiary
"An eloquent natural history of urban wildlife, and an insightful rumination on how the human animal has/should/might relate to what Haupt calls the 'new nature'...Many writers have been defining this new nature for at least a decade. And Haupt makes a significant contribution to that conversation."—Boston Globe